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From McGill-Queen's University Press Fall 2008 Catalogue:  Current dogma holds that all cultures and moral values are conditional, nothing human is innate, and Einstein proved that the whole universe is “relative.” Challenging this position, William Gairdner argues that relativism is not only logically and morally self-defeating but that progress in scientific and intellectual disciplines has actually strengthened the case for absolutes, universals, and constants of nature and human nature. 
Gairdner refutes the popular belief in cultural relativism by showing that there are hundreds of well-established cross-cultural “human universals.” He then discusses the many universals found in physics – including Einstein’s personal regret at how his work was misinterpreted by publics eager to promote relativism. Gairdner also gives a lively account of the many universals of human biology, including the controversial topic of universal gender differences, or “brain sex.” He then looks at universal concepts of both natural and international law, and ends by discussing language theory. He shows how philosophers from Nietzsche to Derrida have misused linguistic concepts to justify their relativism, even though a sustained and successful effort by serious scientists and philosophers of language has revealed myriad universals of human language, ranging from language acquisition, to word-order, to “Universal Grammar.”

From ethics to Einstein, culture to biology, law to language, The Book of Absolutes makes complex topics accessible to a broad audience and demonstrates that there are plenty of certainties, even in our postmodern world.

 
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CONTENTS

 
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 A Brief History of Relativism
2 The Main Types of Relativism
3 Objections to Relativism
4 The Universals of Human Life and Culture
5 The Constants of Nature
6 The War over Biology: Setting the Stage
7 Hardwired: The Universals of Human Biology, Sex, and Brain Sex
8 Universals of Law: The Natural Law and the Moral Law
9 The Natural Law and the Moral Law at Work in the World
10 How Language Theory Changed the (Post) Modern World
11 German Philosophy and the Relativist Revolt against Western Civilization
12 The Sacred Text: The French Nietzsche and the French Heidegger
13 Po-Mo and the Return to Absolutes
14 The Universals of Language
15 A Postscript, with a Word about the Universals of Literature, Myth, and Symbol
Appendix: Some Universals and Constants of Nature and Human Nature